No Perfect Families…Or Churches

Our large family recent went on a vacation together; nearly 30 of us in the same house for a week.  It was loads of fun.  But there were also challenges.

Our church family goes through fun and hard times together, too.  Just like yours.

You can read about my experience and how God used our vacation to point me to some real life stuff in our church here.

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New Years Eve With a Cute Redhead

JJThis New Year’s Eve most of our adult kids were out for the evening — and no wonder we weren’t asked to join them. After all, it was a great night for a sleepover with four of our Little People. After dinner out with our oldest daughter, Jaime, and her family we took the littles home and tucked them in. JJ, age seven, learned over dinner that his cousin, Wyatt (also seven), would be staying up till midnight with his parents and sisters.

“Granma,” he said, looking up at me with tender greenish eyes that match perfectly with his red hair, “can I stay up late, too?”

What’s a Granma to do? Say yes, of course! The only problem was his two younger sisters were determined they would all sleep in the same room and go to bed at the same time.

“How ’bout if you lay down until your sisters fall asleep, then sneak out quietly to join Granma and Papa in the family room?” I offered.

The tired little girls fell asleep in record time and before long a little boy wearing only underwear under his new Auburn Tigers blanket climbed onto the recliner with Granma. Forget the movie Benny and I were watching. There was an adorable little redhead cuddling with me that wanted to talk. As I sat stroking his hair I couldn’t help but remember similar moments with his daddy. Replace the red hair with blonde, the green-blue eyes with sky blue and erase the freckles and you’ll know why Joshua Junior (JJ) is the perfect name for this little man.

Yet before long I will be looking up to him. Yes, it will happen faster than I think. I learned that from his father. He’s already getting lanky and calling guys “Dude.” It’s just a matter of time before I hear he’s got a crush on a girl or he’s wanting to show me his just-acquired driver’s license.

Getting old is hard in many ways. Sometimes I feel frumpy and unattractive. I can’t keep as many plates spinning as I used to. I can too frequently describe people to a tee but can’t remember their names. I ask Benny to hand me that…um…”metal thing with rounded spokes that I use to stir things fast when I don’t want to get out the mixer” before the word whisk meanders into my brain . Aches and pains linger and sleep evades.

But aging has some amazing perks. I get to play duck, duck goose and Candy Land again. Make bubble baths and convince little ones it’s time to get out when little fingertips get wrinkled. Listen to slowly spoken words of new readers who couldn’t wait to show Granma how smart they are. Get to use the small wooden table and chairs that still bear paint marks and scratches put there by their mommies and daddies. Pray for young hearts to be softened to their need for a Savior.

And snuggle with an underwear clad, freckle faced boy who thinks hanging out with Granma on New Years Eve is cool.

How many years will it be till spending time with friends means less time with me? When will he stop offering to talk about whatever comes to mind and make me work hard to ask just the right question to unlock his thoughts? Will he someday find time at Granma’s something he’s expected to do rather than gets to do?

Until these questions are answered I will just enjoy the gift of having Little People in my life.

I sure am happy I can still remember their names.

Grandkids Christmas 2012

My Little People

Kayla, Wyatt, Annie, Danae, JJ, Elsie, Ellie, Sam, Issac, Josiah and Amelia: I’m looking forward to another year of snuggles. And I’m hoping that Granma’s is a place you’ll always want to come. Even when you’re big, no longer want to take bubble baths with your cousins, and would rather be just about anywhere else but my house on New Years Eve, I want you to know that time with you is pretty much my favorite thing to do.

Well, except for getaways with Papa.

The Princess and False Teeth

I called him the Pillsbury Dough Boy because for as long as I can remember he was chubby and would chuckle when I found the tickle spot under his chin.  I also can’t remember a time he didn’t have false teeth. Back in the day I guess dentists were quicker to put teeth than they are now. I’m glad.

One morning when I was in high school Mom and I decided to play a trick on Daddy. While he was sleeping, I took the false teeth he soaked in cleaning solution every night out of the container in their bathroom and replaced them with a set of miniature plastic teeth I paid 25 cents for from a vending machine. Mom hid his real teeth and I headed to the shower to get ready for school.

When I got out of the shower Mom said Dad was in his shower and would be discovering his miniature teeth soon.  We waited. And waited. Finally, I had to leave for school disappointed that I hadn’t heard the “Elsie! Sheree! Where’s my teeth?!?!”

I couldn’t wait to get home to hear what happened. But Mom was stumped. After I left that morning she went downstairs to help my paralyzed older brother get going for the day. When she came back upstairs dad had left for work. The little teeth were still in the solution and his regular teeth were still in the hiding place Mom had chosen.

Dad had gone to work toothless?!?

I heard his car pull up and called for Mom. She and I ran to the kitchen to pretend we were finishing up dinner. I had taken the 2 feet long chunky wooden fork and spoon off the wall in the kitchen to put beside his dinner plate just to finalize the day’s antics. She and I stood grinning, waiting for him to come in.

He came in; yelled a greeting; and headed back to their room to change. Soon he appeared at the dinner table, sat down without saying a word, offered a small smile at his huge cutlery (making sure to maintain pursed lips), bowed his head and said “let’s pray.” He thanked the Lord for his family…and for the extra set of teeth he had picked up last week at the dentist.

That was Daddy.

He had a wonderful sense of humor and was the most chivalrous man I knew. He didn’t want Mom or me to mow the lawn; took our cars to get gas as often as he noticed or heard the gauge was low; opened doors for all the ladies; and named me “Princess.” In fact, I don’t ever remember him using my name.

He “dieted” by heaping loads of salad clumped with dressing on his plate and snuck food from the kitchen while we weren’t around. He even liked to chomp on frozen hotdogs! Yep. You read it right. He liked his coffee “blonde and sweet”, said with a twinkle in his eye. He probably lost 400 pounds during the last 10 years of his life but each time he lost weight his “dieting” put it all back on before long.

He served. Oh, he served. For years, he drove an old school bus to pick up kids for church on Sunday mornings…and believe me, that was the cleanest bus on the church lot. He was the first “sound man” I knew — driving all over the Washington, DC area to lug equipment and make sure New Covenant (the little Christian band Benny and I sang in with a few friends in the 70’s) sounded good.

Daddy was also very generous and caring. Money was tight in our family growing up and Mom depended on Dad getting a work bonus to buy Christmas gifts. It was about a week before Christmas in 1971 and Mom was eager to get ahold of that $300 bonus Dad said was coming. The day he got it our little church had our Wednesday night service. One of the deacons stood up and spontaneously said he thought we should take an offering to bless Pastor Day for all his hard work starting a new church that year.

Mom’s Christmas money ended up in the collection plate that night. When Dad came home to tell her, he was beaming. He felt so good about blessing Pastor Day and just knew Mom would be, too.

He was wrong. Mom was mad. She was a wonderfully generous person who gave incessantly to others, but giving away the Christmas money she had been depending on put quite a damper on Dad’s gift. I, too, was thinking, “You gave away our Christmas?!?!?” Poor guy. He really did think we would all rejoice along with him!

His caring heart extended to animals, too. Let’s see, there was the “brown” mutt he brought home that turned white after his first bath; the hound he promised wouldn’t grow into his paws that ended up being nearly the size of a Great Dane; the stray poodle mix with bladder issues that tinkled everywhere she went; the boxer we named “Trumpet” because…well…that doesn’t take much explanation…to name a few.

And then there were Charlie and Sam, the two “male” cats he brought home one night from the gas station he was working at several nights a week.  He cut a cat hole into the storage area on the carport for them, and two weeks later they each had 7 kittens.

My favorite memory with dad was learning how to drive in his little Volkswagon bug, his first and only company car. In his younger years he raced stock cars, so Daddy knew cars inside and out.  His idea of teaching his daughter to drive was to wait for snow. He wanted me to learn in the worst of conditions, knowing it would make good conditions easier. The lesson ended with me doing donuts in the parking lot as Dad congratulated me for being “a chip off the old block.” Years later his lessons paid off when he found a pretty black Chevelle 396 convertible for Benny and me. No guy who tried could out run me and my Hurst shifter.  (Sadly, we had to sell it after 4 months because of Benny’s 4 speeding tickets…smile.)

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for honoring Daddy by reading a little about his life. His death when I was 23 was one of the hardest things this Princess has faced. Today I’m reminded that I will see him again…soon and very soon.

My Retirement Snuck Up on Me

The Class of 2012
(Mostly Home Schooled)

I’m interrupting my series on homemaking to share some personal thoughts about my weekend. Last Saturday I moved the final tassel from right to left at a child’s graduation from high school.

Graduation day is a memorable one for all moms. Whatever your schooling choice, moms sacrifice in various ways to see that day come: helping with homework, spending countless hours carpooling to school and sports activities, shopping for clothes and supplies, reminding about assignments, worrying about test scores…the list goes on.

As a home schooler, though, last weekend was especially meaningful because it brought nearly 30 years of teaching my children at home to an end. Every parent is a home educator. We all teach our kids to walk, talk, be respectful, clean their rooms and not talk with food in their mouths. We impart to them our values, train them not to cross the street without looking both ways, sit up late with them while they study, and warn them about the dangers of choosing the wrong friends. So if you’re not homeschooling, please don’t read this (and other) posts I write about my experiences teaching my kids at home as a suggestion that you’re not teaching yours, too.  You are!

A themed “Hollywood” party started off their fun weekend.

The thing I’ve been able to do is have more time with my kids than if they were in school elsewhere all day.

The fact that my adult children are smart and have good jobs after getting post-high school educations without debt makes me smile.

Because in some ways, I really wasn’t a great homeschooler. I only built one baking soda volcano and it didn’t work. While my fun homeschooling friends were forming letters by strategically placing pillows on the floor to teach their toddlers the alphabet, I got colorful refrigerator magnet letters that ended up…well…I don’t know where. So my kids learned their letters with boring ‘ol pencil and paper.   And the only math game I remember having was the box of timetable flashcards Lady got ahold of when she was a puppy.

As last Saturday was approaching, I grew increasingly sentimental. A part of me certainly shared the relief of friends who celebrated when years of the daily grind of homeschooling came to an end. However, my retirement from home schooling snuck up on me and most of me isn’t glad it’s over.

My memories have been going to places like:

  • Having morning devotions that ended with watching my kids pray for each other…or with them having to ask forgiveness for irritating or being unkind to one another. Smile. Either was a meaningful end to our time with the Lord together.

    Our baby girl is now a beautiful young woman…inside and out.

  • Re-enacting a Civil War battle after lunch in the woods near Bull Run using bananas as weapons.
  • Listening to Jaime teaching little Jake to read from the other room while I went over a math lesson with Jesse.
  • Inviting a bunch of the kid’s friends for sleepovers when a snowstorm was approaching so tomorrow’s math could be learning fractions while measuring out cookie dough ingredients and doing P.E. by sledding down the hill on Shiplett Boulevard.
  • Rejoicing over Janelle sounding out her very first sentence all herself.
  • Seeing Benny’s eyes glisten when the kids recited chunks of scripture as their gift to him one Father’s Day.
  • Discovering tall, teenaged Josh asleep with baby Julia on his chest when he was supposed to be writing a English paper.
  • Using “The Peacemaker for Kids” to help the kids avoid the “slippery slope” of insisting on their own way, faking peace instead of making peace, and refusing to forgive me and each other from the heart.
  • Interrupting school to surprise them with a packed cooler in the van just waiting for us to have lunch and shoot baskets at Van Dyke Park.

And then came Julia.

When we brought her home from the hospital when Benny and I were 40, we drove  home amazed at such a gift — and laughing about how we would “be almost 60 years old before she graduates high school!!”  But that was so far away back then!  Benny joked that a big reason why I wanted to adopt this little sweetheart was to extend my home schooling years. The wife he begged to do this “just for one year” in 1983 had turned into a homeschool-loving, American history-teaching, field trip-planning mom-turned-teacher who got ridiculously excited when UPS showed up with next fall’s books.

I can still almost smell them.

Having a blast with my new photography hobby! Love this pic…and this girl.

Oh, I had my bad days. My kids can tell you about them. I’m sure a part of each of them was glad when their “no more pencils, no more books, no more Mom’s dirty looks” graduation day came!

But my memories of home schooling are full of laughs and tender moments and the joy of folding laundry while overhearing Jesse and Joey arguing about how many points Josh scored in his last game or Jake reciting the order of Old Testament books (Job, Psalms, Problems!).

So thank you, Julia. There are many reasons for which I’m grateful God brought you into our family. But, yeah, one of them is because I got to home school for five more years than I would have otherwise.